Ménage à review – Kim, Tasha, and I take on The Wicked Confessions of Lady Cecilia Stanton by Viveka Portman

Every now and then when trolling NetGalley for something to read, my buddies Kim (from Reflections of a Book Addict) and Tasha (from Truth, Freedom, Beauty & Books) find a book that we just have to read. Together.  Thus, we have The Wicked Confessions of Lady Cecilia Stanton to discuss today.

The blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:

When faced with a rakish, lusty husband, what is a proper English wife to do but educate herself in the art of bedplay?

“Marriages are strange things, none stranger perhaps than this betwixt me and my lord husband.”

Lady Cecelia is married to the dashing and philandering Lord William Stanton, a situation that would distress even the most composed and refined gently-born lady. However, Cecelia has a secret balm to her dissatisfaction: her maid, Bess Miller.

Cecelia’s inexperience and William’s insatiable appetites fuel her desire to learn, and Bess is a willing teacher. Then, when Cecelia blossoms into pregnancy and can no longer accommodate William’s needs, he distances himself, and Bess becomes her only solace and comfort — and the channel for her most intimate desires. As Cecelia struggles to understand her own feelings, gossip begins to spread. William starts asking questions, and wicked confessions must be made…

Tasha: First of all, let me say that the beginning of this novella intrigued me. It’s written in diary form and Cecelia’s like, “I’m pregnant AGAIN, dammit!” I wanted to find out why she was upset she was pregnant. Unfortunately, the answer to that question is really stupid. AND this is possibly the least-sexy erotica I’ve ever read. By the end I was simultaneously laffing my arse off and completely disgusted with the whole book.

Kelly: Yes to both of those, and also all the eye rolls.  Oh, and I shouted, “For reals?” at the book several times towards the end.

Kim: I’m at a complete loss with this novella. I knew it wouldn’t be amazing going in, but, like Tasha, I found the diary format intriguing. Upon completion of the novella, I’m at a loss as to why it was even written. In essence it’s a story about a woman who wants sex and greedily takes it from whomever she can with no regard to anyone else’s feelings.  I’m not sure any of the characters actually feel anything besides a hunger for sex.  Speaking of the characters, I never connected with any of them.

Cecelia, our heroine, doesn’t really care for much, besides sex. She’s a user through and through, using Bess, her maid, for physical and emotional comfort. She comes off as a rich, privileged woman used to having her own way in all situations.

Tasha: Cecelia’s not that well-drawn of a character, and the story is told completely from her viewpoint! She is very snooty and repressed (I’m guessing to give Lord Braying Donkey something to play off?), but she also seems like an over-the-top sex fiend, sooooo… I did like that she stood up for herself with William’s philandering, but for all the wrong reasons! Beyond that we don’t really know much about her. She rides horses and lies in bed all day waiting for people to stick something up her cootch, apparently.

Kim: Tasha’s right about William. He really is Lord Braying Donkey. They way Cecelia falls in love with him like instantly is utterly ridiculous. He’s lewd, crass, and a bonafide sex addict. While she’s pregnant he leaves her and head to London, where he promptly gambles himself into huge debts and the arms of many women.  Cecelia meanwhile is left at home to give birth to their child, alone. (Well, alone to his knowledge) Suddenly he comes back months after the child is born and expects to be forgiven. His first duty upon returning? Tupping his wife. What pissed me off the most about him is that he just expects her forgiveness. She makes a comment about being unhappy with his actions and he like gets all upset over it. Cecelia (wanting his dick) is like AW BABY I’M SORRY. IT’S NOT FAIR FOR ME TO BE UPSET ABOUT YOU CHEATING ON ME AND SPENDING ALL OUR MONEY. FORGIVE ME!

Tasha: Well, he HAS to cheat on her while she’s pregnant because the doctor told him he can’t “befoul your luscious womb” until she’s pushed the baby out. HOW CAN HE LIVE WITHOUT SEX??? And also: what good is Cecelia if can’t stick his dick in her? See? Completely understandable!

Kim: The whole “William and his fear of having sex with Cecelia while she was pregnant” was so so stupid. You mean to tell me that he has no married male friends? None who saw the disaster he was becoming and sought to talk to him about it? Very unrealistic.

Tasha: lol The idea that anyone would find him attractive, let alone fall in love with him and put up with his crap, was unrealistic. The guy was like a braying donkey. And then Cecelia turns around and is all like, “I love him!” OKAY CRAZY.

Kelly: Cecilia certainly does not paint William in the most flattering light, so it’s very jarring when she suddenly switches from talking about how disgusting he is to talking about how much she loves him.  It’s a little unclear why she loves him — although it’s probably that he has a magic penis — because it’s unclear what changes in their relationship from their inauspicious beginning (Cecilia has one of those rent asunder cherry-popping experiences) to the development of twu wuv.

Tasha: Cecelia and Bess’ relationship also seemed very random. They were friends for years and years—at least as much as one can be friends with someone who’s paid to do what you say—and then all of sudden Bess is like, “Here, let me help you with your orgasm problem.” Sure. Why not.

Kim: Bess was the only character I felt anything for. What I felt for her was sympathy. She’s really dealt the short end of the stick in this book.  She’s a servant and as such is already set up as a lower person, socially. It’s obvious that she cares greatly for Cecelia, but why…that’s never really fleshed out.

Tasha: That’s true of the whole book, really. There’s a lot of tell and not show going on—for example, Williams’ appeal to Cecelia. We’re TOLD he’s kind and considerate and blah blah, but what we’re shown doesn’t support that. Also, we’re told Cecelia enjoys sex—I guess??? I mean, it seems to be her number one motivator—but the sex scenes were so clinical and not sexy at all.

Kim: Good points, Tasha. LOTS of telling. My biggest issue with the book is the ending/treatment of Bess. It bothered me SO MUCH that Cecelia and William get everything they want while Bess is thrust into the situation whether she likes it or not. It’s like, oh hey – moral of the story – everyone gets a happy ending but the servant. Because servants are only good for serving the gentry.

Kelly: It might not have been so obvious that Bess was getting the short end of the stick if the narrative hadn’t emphasized that Bess thought William was a gross, stupid asshole.  So, at the end, without either Cecilia or William giving even a thought to what Bess might want, it’s just decided that they’ll be a happily ever after threesome, and Bess will just have to learn to recognize the power of William’s magic penis.

Tasha: I just wish they’d have moved to threesomes right away. Instead it’s just stuck at the end, and I agree that Bess and that other servant William was having sex with are treated like afterthoughts. Well, they are!

A few more afterthoughts are Cece’s and Will’s seven or eight or nine (who even knows) kids. Where are they? What happened to them? Are these parents even aware of their kids’ names? Once Cecelia pumps one out, she’s like, “Awesome, now I can move on to having sex again!” and the kid is assigned to nursery purgatory.

Kelly: That’s probably for the best.  If it weren’t for Nancy, the wet-nurse, those kids would probably succumb to infant mortality. Could I just mention for one second that it’s a little weird that Nancy is the wet-nurse for all of Cecilia’s children? By the time Cece’s on her fourth pregnancy, poor Nancy has been lactating for years.

Kim: Good point. Probably should get those kids some fresh milk. Especially since Nancy is also banging Will. Can we talk about that weird love square/pentagon/octagon? Nancy is having sex with Will, who “loves” Ceclia, who “loves” Bess, who does stable dudes, who are also probably banging Nancy, who feeds the children.

Tasha: LOL Probably. Just wait until the kids get older.

Kim: ::shudders::

Kelly: As long as someone is giving it to Cecilia, what does it matter? I think that might be the moral of this story (along with the one Kim mentioned earlier).

Kim: I basically think everyone in the estate is having sex with each other. Syphilis must be running RAMPANT. I also thought that when Cecelia brings up the idea of condoms that Will takes it as a personal affront. Like dude. You’re banging all of London and half of your estate. I’d want to wrap your tool too.

Kelly: But he has a magic penis! It’s impervious to social disease.

Tasha: Yeah, you can’t wrap that shit up. It has to be unleashed! I think that’s the moral of the story.

We thought we’d end this discussion with a gif parade demonstrating our reactions to the book.

Yeah.  So, there you have it. The Wicked Confessions of Lady Cecilia Stanton.

Kim, Tasha, and I want to thank the publisher for providing us e-galleys on NetGalley.  Believe it or not, we had a great time reading this book, but I think that says more about us than about the book…